LIVING IT UP

The suite life at Toyota Center is an experience unlike any other

Getting your photo taken with Elvin Hayes? Check. Courtesy photo

Every fan should enjoy at least one game from a corporate box in their lifetime. That is the valuable lesson I learned at the Toyota Center last night as the Rockets dominated the Bulls 118-86. It was the first time I had attended a Rockets game and honestly, I was a little disappointed in the gameplay. I feel like everyone wants a great game from the sporting events they attend and well, it was a such a dominant performance by the home team that I hardly felt the need to focus on the court below. But maybe that’s a good thing. Otherwise I might not have fully enjoyed the luxuries around me.

First of all; just looking at the suite from the outside felt a little strange. It’s a very unassuming door that looks like it could be for any office in any corporate building anywhere in Houston. I had to read the number on the side of the door like I was looking for Bill Lumbergh’s office. But once I crossed the threshold; my goodness it was like I walked in late for an office party. Scant decorations, and a minimalist couch and table setup gave way to a larger wet bar area with catered food against a side wall. Let’s just say that first impressions aren’t everything.

I completed my entrance and shook hands with the kind folks who provided the tickets and off I went into the great beyond of sports watching. As I lifted my glass of whiskey and looked out at the court unobstructed I realized how great this was going to be. I saw the score and watched a couple of runs up and down the court before returning to a conversation that was easy to have without the noise of the crowd, only to be interrupted by calls to get my items from the dessert cart (of which there were many) before the lady left for the other suites. I chose a caramel toffee blondie but because of a misplaced sign had a piece of red velvet cake handed to me. It was covered so I had two desserts. Hooray for me!

I set my cake aside on the counter without worry that it would be swiped and returned to my drink, the game, and the conversations of the moment. The Rockets were holding a lead of more than 20 points. With all that was going on around me, why watch the game? It was much more fun to shake hands with Houston legend Elvin Hayes, who had just stepped into our suite for an appearance. I took pictures and said hello before he was on to his next gig, but you could feel the importance of where you were just by his presence.

Now the Rockets were pushing a 30-point lead and the wife and I headed to the seats just outside the corporate booth while we ate our fajitas and nachos. The view was amazing and because it was a suite there was a direct, unencumbered view of the court. I’ve never had seats like that at any sporting event in my life and I have sat near the sideline on more than one occasion. Even those seats had someone or something obscuring the view at least a little bit. This time there was none of that.

With the game safely in hand we returned to the suite for the final minutes. It was then that we discovered we had the opportunity to shoot a free-throw on the court after the game. I was shocked because I didn’t believe it could get any better, but it did. I signed that waiver like it was a million-dollar life insurance policy and waited eagerly for our escort. I was hoping we would get a couple of shots but hey, even one was nice. I got two anyways because I haven’t shot a basketball in a long time and my first one hit the front of the rim and bounced right back. I missed the second one too but I didn’t care, it was worth it.

I am profoundly changed as a sports fan. How can anyone watch a game any other way? Catered food: check. Great view of the game: check. Decent liquor: check. Star athlete appearances: check. Post-game free throw: check. My goal in life is now to find any way I can to be rich enough for a seat like that for every sporting event I want to see.

Or maybe I just dream about it while I sit with some of the biggest and best fans who pay whatever they can afford to cheer on their team as often as they can, having only the memory as their special perk. Yeah, I think that’s the one that excites me more.

 

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